“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:15)

Why did Jesus get baptized by John?

This is how Jesus responded when he approached John the Baptist for baptism. John had been preaching to thousands of people who came from towns and villages. They traveled miles into the wilderness to hear John's teachings.

John was an acclaimed messenger of God in line with the great Prophets. Thus Jesus' baptism by John also put Jesus within this same lineage of messengers of God.

John's Jordan River baptisms and sermons brought large crowds of people to hear from this extraordinary teacher of wisdom. Though the text records John’s humble statement praising Jesus, it is apparent that John the Baptist was a spiritual teacher renowned throughout Judea.

The texts describe John as a devoted and dedicated preacher. His teachings were critical of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He called them a “brood of vipers!” (Matthew 4:7) In other words, he was not a preacher of the established institutional religion of that time and era.

Yet at the same time, John the Baptist taught the same essential teachings of Moses, Abraham, David, Samuel, Eli, Isaiah and so on. In his sermon to the Pharisees and Sadducees, he comments about Abraham as their father - a term often used to describe one's teacher.

Where did John get his authority?

John the Baptist was also the student of another glorified messenger of God. Luke details John’s father, Zechariah, and how John’s birth came to be. Zechariah was a priest “who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5).

Luke further describes Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth: 
“Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6)
As Zechariah and Elizabeth were older and Elizabeth was thus far barren, the birth of John was preceded by the visitation of Angel Gabriel, who identified himself, declaring that,
“I stand in the presence of God,” (Luke 1:19).
In this visitation, Gabriel proclaimed that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a child. Gabriel spoke of this child, John the Baptist:
“... for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:15-17).

Was John Jesus' teacher?

From this statement, we find that John the Baptist was more than the provider of Jesus’ baptism. He was God's messenger. He brought people back to God. This means he was qualified to teach the same message of love for God that Jesus taught:
“They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:21-23)
Thus John humbly described himself. Though Gabriel may have proclaimed to John’s father the greatness of John the Baptist, John saw himself humbly, as a simple messenger of God. 

The phrase “make straight” - translated from the Greek term εὐθύνω (euthynō) meaning "to lead or guide straight" as a "helmsman" might - is about one's personal life. John certainly was not involved in governmental affairs or crowd control. “Make straight” is a personal process of preparing oneself.

“The way for the Lord” has been assumed to be some sort of description of Jesus' arrival. This is not consistent with the text. The Greek word ὁδός (hodos) means "a course of conduct" according to Thayer's lexicon. 

This means this verse is describing a person's choice to align one's life with "the Lord" - that is, with the Supreme Being.

In other words: John wanted to encourage people to have a change of heart and decide to return to their relationship with God.

These are the teachings common to all of the prophets. Every prophet, from Abraham to Ezekiel, requested from his students that they turn to the Supreme Being and learn to love and serve Him.

Now when Jesus approached John for baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus, and indicated Jesus' position:
“I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me? (Matt 3:14)
Jesus did not accept such a question born of humility. He understood John's authority and was determined to be baptized by John:
“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” was how Jesus responded.

What is the purpose of baptism?

We might stop to consider carefully the meaning and purpose of baptism. While some sectarian institutions might consider baptism to be the process of cleansing the sins away from a person, there is certainly another intention involved in the process.

Today sectarian baptism is conducted by a priest or minister, but during John and Jesus' time it was the process of a spiritual teacher accepting followers, who could then become spiritual teachers. It was not a ceremony to join a sect or cleanse sins. It was to symbolize someone becoming a follower of that spiritual teacher.

This process of accepting a teacher, who has accepted a teacher creates a lineage of teachers who are essentially passing on the same teachings.

Moses, Abraham, Isaiah and so many others who were shown to have authority in the Gospels all themselves were followers then teachers within the same succession or lineage of teachers.

John the Baptist was a teacher and follower of a teacher within the lineage of Abraham.

Jesus had no need to accept the position of John’s follower. But he did so to illustrate the process of accepting a teacher within the lineage of God's messengers.

Did Jesus follow John's example by taking on his own disciples?

Once Jesus received the baptism from John he began taking on his own disciples. If Jesus were to gather his own disciples and baptize them prior to his baptism by John, we would probably not see the importance of accepting a teacher.

However, Jesus did indeed accept not just any teacher—not just any Pharisee from the local synagogue. He did not just walk into any church and take the baptism as a mechanical process. He approached a specific person, a dedicated preacher and the student of an esteemed priest named Zechariah, “who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5).

Thus we can understand that Jesus accepted a bonafide teacher before he became a teacher. This is the example that Jesus set for his own students, who eventually also became teachers.

This is why Peter, James, Thomas, John and other disciples began their own ministries after Jesus departed.

Is this about a family lineage?

From Jesus' life we can see that his disciples were not his family members. Yes, there were a few, such as James, that were part of his physical family. But the bulk of his followers were not part of his physical family.

This and other indications tell us that the lineage of ancient teachers is not about family heritage.

Much of the teachings of the Old Testament were presented and handed down through the generations of the teaching lineage of Abraham. Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Josiah and other saints and teachers who were all students of Abraham’s teachings. Some were related as in the same family, and some were not.

This is also confirmed by the fact that Jesus chose someone who was not his father to take baptism.

It should be pointed out that Joseph did not take up the priesthood or become a teacher. Yet because both Zechariah and John were students before they were teachers, and Zechariah took his training in the lineage of Abijah, we see that the lineage from teacher to disciple was not necessarily a family thing.

As we look deeper into the Old Testament, we find that many of the descendants of Abraham were kings or leaders of their day, but a priestly lineage was present yet often separate from the family. Though we find Jacob, Lot and Isaac were students of Abraham during the time of Elijah, we find instructions were “in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.” (1 Kings 17:1)

We also find many other cases where a descendant of Abraham’s family did not “walk in the ways of the Lord” as did others, while many, such as David and Solomon, certainly did walk with God. This confirms it is not simply a bloodline - but a spiritual family.

Were the teachings of Moses and Abraham lost during these times when the Abraham bloodline did not worship the Supreme Being? Certainly not. The teachings were carefully being passed down through the priestly lineage. And it was such a lineage that Jesus decided to take baptism from.

This bears a discussion regarding the current state of affairs among some sectarian institutions. Though we know that Jesus took on and baptized students, and he instructed them to go out and preach the gospel and take on their own students, the lineage coming from Jesus has been given up by ecclesiastical institutions that appoint and elect their teachers much as politicians are elected. Thus the lineage has been effectively abandoned by these organizations.

Was Jesus indoctrinated?

Jesus chose a teacher who was not part of any organization or “church.” John was considered an outcast, teaching the Truth in the desert, where people had to travel to hear him speak. 

John was also critical of the local organized institution and its teachers:
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matt 4:7-8)
These words obviate that John was his own man - serving the Supreme Being - and not part of the establishment. The fact that he instructed them to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” is clear. He was obviously requesting that they give up their pride and become devoted to God.

“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’” (Matt 4:9) John said. He made it obvious that producing fruit is connected to devotion to God and not related to belonging to any particular family, club or group.

Jesus chose a particular teacher of the Truth, not an organization to join. Jesus never went around saying he was part of a particular church or organization either, just as John did. Herein lies the “righteousness” of the situation. Jesus was teaching us by example not to join a club or organization, but to carefully choose a teacher who keeps the Truth close, and focuses on devotion to God.

Jesus' purpose was to serve the Supreme Being and please God with his activities. He didn't make up his own system or just appoint himself. He didn't set up an electoral college or a council of deacons to pick the teacher through politics. Before he began preaching and taking on students, he accepted a teacher, stating:
“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”